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Although posters were produced in Russia before the Revolution, they were overshadowed by the remarkable propaganda posters of the Soviets. Lenin takes responsibility for creating the first truly modern propaganda machine, from postage stamps and Mayday parades to monumental sculptures. Perhaps its most colorful, dramatic and original form was the poster. Through it, the greatest artists of the time proclaimed government policies, asked for support, and demanded greater efforts -- all with the goal of building Soviet power.
The Soviet art of propaganda falls into six main periods:
The Bolshevik Era (1917-1921) was a life and death struggle for the Bolsheviks and their ideology. Helping to fight enemies within and without, the early Soviet poster was remarkable for its revolutionary fervor and powerful symbolism.
The New Economic Policy (1921-1927) was a period of recovery and relative freedom for a country ravaged by war, famine and bitter discontent. The commercial and film posters of the "Roaring Twenties " were remarkable for their avant-garde constructivist style.
The First and Second Five Year Plans (1928-1937) were Stalin’s draconian push to convert Russia into a fully communist industrialized power. The great photomontage posters of the First Five Year plan echoed the heroic side of this effort, only to be followed by the purges of the late ‘30s and the retreat from avant-garde art in the Second Plan period.
The Great Patriotic War (1939 - 1945) brought a revival of the great age of the Bolshevik poster. The Soviet struggle for survival forced a return to symbolism that fanned the patriotic fires of the heartland.
The Cold War (1946 - 1984) brought a return to "Social Realism," with utopian views of Russia and Joseph Stalin predominating.In its middle years, the best images featured Viet Nam and the space race. As Perestroika (1984 - Present) dawned, the most powerful images were protest posters created and posted at great personal risk.